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University of Louisville Law Review

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sick leave legislation, Family and Medical Leave Act, disabilities


Health Law and Policy | Law


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress (as well as several states') passed emergency paid sick leave legislation? The federal legislation, known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), guaranteed most workers the right to eighty hours of sick leave at full pay while the employee was in COVID-19-related quarantine, plus an additional eighty hours of sick leave at two-thirds pay to care for another person in quarantine.' Congress felt compelled to pass such legislation because the United States infamously lags behind all other developed countries in guaranteeing paid health-related leave for workers. Of the top twenty-two highest earning countries, the United States is the only country that does not provide paid leave for cancer treatment.' The United States is one of three countries that does not provide paid sick leave for an influenza diagnosis. Moreover, the United States is the only OECD country that does not provide any form of paid parental leave after the birth of a child.'

Instead, the protections for U.S. workers who require short or long-term health-related leave are quite thin. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) only guarantees the right to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for serious health conditions.' Furthermore, it solely applies to workers who have worked for at least one year and average at least thirty hours per week for an employer with fifty or more employees. Six U.S. states and territories-New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Hawaii, California, and Puerto Rico-also mandate short-term disability insurance for workers with serious health conditions. Additionally, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may provide some access to temporary leave through its reasonable accommodation guarantee," but such access is limited to workers who are substantially limited in a major life activity. Thus, in the absence of the FFCRA, only select U.S. workers with severe cases of COVID-19 would have ever possessed any legal right to paid leave upon contraction of or exposure to the virus.



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